Why Compromise on Abortion Policy Is So Very Difficult

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that people who say they are deeply concerned about the incidence of abortions–particularly those brutal Kermit Gosnell late-term abortions–would be delighted at the news of a pretty serious drop in the U.S. abortion rate to a three-decade low in data for 2011. You have to go all the way back to the days immediately after Roe v. Wade struck down state abortion bans to find lower rates. So shouldn’t antichoicers celebrate that, and maybe take credit for the laws they’ve helped pass that cut down on access to abortions?

But no, they’re not in a very good mood, because the main reason experts are citing for the drop in the abortion rate is higher use (doubling between 2007 and 2009, according to one study) of contraceptive devices like the IUD, which most antichoicers view not as contraceptives but as abortion machines.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2010 5.6 percent of contraception-using women in the U.S. relied on an IUD, representing over two million women. If you are of the point of view that most of these women are actually having hidden abortions, then the abortion rate is actually skyrocketing, notwithstanding the fact that outside the antichoice ranks the idea that preventing the implantation in the uterine wall of a microscopic zygote is an “abortion”–just as bad morally as anything going on in Gosnell’s butcher shops– is considered, well, crazy.

That’s the reason for a lot of the heat around the contraceptive coverage mandate issue, and more generally, why compromises on abortion policy are so difficult. If one group of people thinks making it easier and cheaper to gain access to IUDs is the best way to reduce the need for abortions, and another thinks IUD use threatens a great Holocaust of baby-killing, they are going to have a bit of trouble finding common ground, eh?

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.